By Marton Dunai
BUDAPEST (Reuters) – Former Barcelona and Brazil striker Ronaldinho has backed Pep Guardiola to end his Champions League barren run and win the trophy with Manchester City.
“It’s a very difficult competition, but he is a very good coach with a great team at his disposal so they can break through at any moment,” Ronaldinho told Reuters in Budapest, where he was promoting teqball, a hybrid sport mixing football with table tennis.
In the three seasons since the Spaniard took over, City won two Premier League titles, and added an FA Cup and League Cup for a domestic treble last season, but have so far failed to crack the European game’s ultimate test.
Ronaldinho, now 39, said the pass-heavy style of play at Man City may be different from the spectacular individual efforts that marked his own career, but the English club are still “perennial contenders” and played beautiful football.
“I don’t watch their games in their entirety, usually only highlights, but what I do see of Man City I do always like a lot,” he said.
Soon after he took the head coach position at Barcelona in 2008, Guardiola dropped Ronaldinho from the squad, ending what is widely considered the peak period of the Brazilian’s career, which included guiding Barca to a Champions’ League title.
Ronaldinho then joined Italy’s AC Milan and after three seasons returned to Brazil and Mexico to finish his career.
Guardiola twice won the Champions League with Barcelona, but has also failed to win the trophy in subsequent stints at Bayern Munich and City.
Asked about parallels between himself and fellow Brazilian international Neymar, Ronaldinho said the 27-year-old Neymar “left a colossal club for another colossal club when he left Barca for PSG.”
“There are also great players in Paris, and like Manchester City, they are contenders for a Champions League title every year. Whether Neymar returns to Barcelona or not, for me the most important thing is to see my friends happy, in any club.”
He said football may have changed since his time but he found it beautiful still.
“Football is always great to watch, whether it’s a more tactical passing game or heavily based on individual performance,” he said. “It’s up to coaches, and each choose differently.”
(Reporting by Marton Dunai; Editing by Toby Davis)